Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo men who served as “Code
Talkers” in the Pacific theater of World War II, died Wednesday at his
home in Albuquerque, N.M., according to CNN.com.
He was 93
Nez and 28 other Native Americans from the
Navajo tribe were recruited by the Marine Corps during World War II to
develop a secret language that could be used during battle and not be
cracked by the Japanese code-breakers.
The group of
Navajo code talkers swelled to over 300, CNN reports.
U.S. Mint stocks bronze duplicates of the congressional gold medal awarded to the original Navajo Code Talkers in
2000 in both 3-inch and 1.5-inch sizes.
of the medal features two Navajo Code Talkers sending a radio message
surrounded by the inscriptions, NAVAJO CODE TALKERS and BY ACT OF
The reverse includes the Navajo Marine
Corps emblem below the Marine Corps eagle, globe and anchor logo. The
inscriptions, USMC, WWII and "Diné Bizaad Yee Atah Naayéé’ Yikèh
Deesdlíí” ring the medal’s outer edge.
inscription in English means “The Navajo Language Was Used to Defeat
The 3-inch medals can be purchased on the Mint’s
website for $39.95. The 1.5-inch variety is priced at $6.95. The medals
are a part of the Mint's Native American Code Talkers series, which
commemorates service members from numerous tribes who were code
talkers during both world wars.
Code talkers in World War
I and World War II came from numerous tribes other than the Navajo, according to the Native American Encyclopedia,
including the Choctaw, Kiowa, and Sioux. Some of those code talkers
used Type Two Codes, which were simply English messages translated
into their languages.
"However, the Navajos,
Comanches, Hopis, and Meskwakis developed and used special codes based
on their languages. These became known as Type One Codes,” Native
American Encyclopedia explains. "To develop this type of
code, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers first came up with a Navajo
word for each letter of the English alphabet. Since they had to
memorize all the words, they used things that were familiar to them,
such as kinds of animals. Obviously this type of code was far more
complex and created even more difficulty for the enemy to try to
Nez was recruited in 1942 and worked with his
fellow Navajo recruits to develop the code at Camp Pendleton. He was
shipped to Guadalcanal the same year, and also fought in Guam and
Peleliu, CNN reports. He was discharged in 1945 but volunteered to
serve in the Korean War, as well.